I always thought I was so smart, that I’d never fall victim to anything. I’d never end up falling for a scam, never be tricked into giving away my money, and never end up in a bad relationship. However, despite how wise and all-knowing I like to think I am, to say I’m ‘too smart’ is simply not true. After all, while I may not have been gullible enough to send my contact information to a Nigerian Prince, I have, in fact, been involved in a terrible and abusive relationship. I know that contradicts everything about my dating life that I’ve posted about so far, but I really only realized how bad it actually was about a week ago.
Maybe I’ll go into details about that later. Maybe I won’t. But I know that there are millions of people around the world just like me, like both my parents and a lot of the friends I have – who have been, or are in the middle of being taken advantage of. Look, I figured out this was going on after about a year and a half. My dad didn’t clue in for nine whole years. As I’ve learned, no one’s immune.
So I’ve decided to make a bit of a list of the warning signs to look for in your own relationships. Not that knowing this list will make you any less vulnerable, but at least you’ve got a bit of a tool in your back pocket, as it were. I wish I had known this before all the trash went down, but maybe it might help someone else.
- They don’t respect no. I’m not talking about the fact that you sometimes have to physically shove them off you, that sometimes you have to practically beg them to let something go – even though those are perfectly valid ways of refusing your no. I’m talking about them respecting your space for a moment, and trying to push you further a day or two later. I’m talking about sitting down and having a conversation with them about why you’re saying no, and despite how respectful they seem of your wishes at the time, they’re back to doing the same thing to you a little while later. And you have to explain yourself over and over and over again as to why you’re not comfortable or interested in something, and they never seem to listen, because they always ask again. And then follow up with something like I don’t get why you say that because I think ______ on the issue and you should think so too. Until they wear you down so much, that you just resign to yourself that this is the way things are, and resistance is futile.
- They never do what you want to do. You literally don’t get a say. Want to go see a particular movie? Interested in going out on dates? Want them to invest in something you like for a change but none of that’s happening? You’ve got a problem on your hands. Anyone’s fine with doing what they feel like doing, but if they’re not putting themselves aside for a while and letting you call the shots for a bit, they really couldn’t care less about you. They’re just looking for someone to satisfy their own needs without having to give anything in return.
- You’re being threatened in some way. Sure, this could be physical violence. This could look like being threatened in a verbal way. We all know what we’re talking about when I say that. But I’m thinking about the more subtle ways of threatening someone. To me, it was “we can hang out as long as you do what I want.” Or “If you don’t put out for me right now I’m just going to leave.” I can’t count the amount of times I heard that. If I didn’t do what he wanted, which usually involved sex or doing nothing but watching him play dumb games for hours without him having an interest in even speaking to me, then he wasn’t interested in having me around. Even though we hadn’t seen each other for two weeks. Even though we had been dating for almost a year and we lived in the same house. This could also look like “I’m going to kill myself if you do/don’t do ____.” “I will stop being your friend/partner.” “I’ll tell someone about_____.”
- While they may not be physically violent with you, they’ve portrayed it to other people. I haven’t had to deal with this myself, thankfully, but often times, the worst in someone doesn’t come out until you’ve stopped being a novelty for them. How they act around their friends is a great indication of how they’re eventually going to act around you. In my case, it wasn’t violence, but indifference. It was listening to how he spoke so offensively about issues that were important to me when his buddies were all around. It was in seeing that he hasn’t even tried to keep contact with his family since moving out, nor make much of an effort to see anyone.
- When telling someone you’re involved with them, you always get a negative reaction. I think out of all the times I told someone who I was dating, I only got a positive reaction once. It’s easy to think ‘they’re just misunderstood.’ But listen to what the people around you are saying. They’re going to be a much better indicator on this person than you are. No matter how clever you think you are, you’re going to be emotionally involved, and you won’t be able to see what’s really going on. They can. Take their concerns seriously, especially if it’s a pattern.
- They don’t include you in their life, and make no effort to be involved. While this kind of hits on a previous point, it’s a little more extreme. They don’t make an effort to get to know your family and friends, they could care less about your hobbies and don’t make the slightest move to be involved in anything about your life. Instead, you’re the one who has to include them in your life, because they sure as hell aren’t going to take initiative themselves. Same goes the other way, too. They don’t introduce you to their friends, they don’t invite you along to parties or events, and they keep you as far away from themselves as they can.
- Their closest friends make bad remarks about them. I heard everything from “are you sure he’s going to keep dating you if you don’t put out?'” To “He’s just got a really bad reputation.” Or “All he knows how to do is the physical part of relationships.” I even heard things like “Are you two even dating??” And that all came from people who knew him for years. Came mostly from his best friend, actually, and I never stopped to think that maybe these people weren’t just trying to trash him, but they actually had a point.
- You’re being pressured and forced into things. Whether this happens through violence or an inability to respect a ‘no’ or not, pressure is still pressure. I thoroughly believed that he was doing everything for me. I needed him to push me farther on a constant basis, even though I was terrified, because I owed it to him. Because that’s what love is. Because I have to be a good girlfriend and show him how much he’s cared about. Because he’s not getting anything out of it and he just wants to help me grow into a better person and make me happy. All this is pressure, and it didn’t come because of myself. He made me feel all of that. I was expected to give out, expected to be fine with things, and expected to do whatever else he wanted, really. He’d come on to me every single time we were together. That’s pressure. He’d literally walk out of the room or ignore me if I didn’t do what he wanted me to do. That’s pressure. He’d say “you’re either going to let me touch you right now, or we’re going to take a shower together.” That’s not only pressure, that’s not being given a choice. I cried on him for at least three hours after we had sex for the first time, if I can even call it that because I didn’t know what was happening at all. And the next day he tries to sleep with me again – quite forcefully – and since I said no, I was forced to “compromise” and let him do a whole heck of a lot of other things to me while I just sat there. Pressure is constant reminders, bringing things up on a consistent basis, and never letting anything go until they get what they want.
- You find yourself compromising more often than not. Or maybe a better word for this would be justifying. So what does this look like? They’re just going through a rough time right now. But they love me. They’re doing this for me. It just happened because I wasn’t vocal enough. I’m happy to do this for them because I love them and they need to know that. This is just what people do, and there’s something wrong with me if I’m not comfortable with it, so the fault lies with me. I need to step up my game to be a better partner, because all this is on me. Maybe I’m just not trying hard enough. This is all great for my development as a person. They’ve just got a lot going on right now. Well, I’m the only happiness and support in their lives and if this is the kind of support they need, then I’m okay with that. It’ll be different in the future, I’m sure. Even though it happened this once, it’s not going to happen again. I’ve already had ten conversations with them about this so they’re definitely going to get the point this time. They’ll actually talk and open up to me if I do what they want, and they need me to be that safe space for them, so I’m happy to do that. I’m just being selfish. I’m the only one who can love and support them in this way, and to be a good person I have to help out.
Guys, I know it’s hard to recognize when you’re in a bad situation. You switch yourself off, justify everything, avoid feeling or thinking, and put your concerns on the back burner because ‘it’s fine and you’re just being stupid so you have to try harder to believe the best in people because that’s who you are.’ But loves, if you can relate to even one thing on this list, even if it’s as small as “I’m just being selfish,” you’re putting yourself in real, legitimate danger, and I implore you to get yourself out of the situation before you end up like me. And if you’re thinking anything along the lines of “It’s fine. It was just a one time thing. I won’t let anything happen to me. It’s nothing serious, and will blow over if I just wait a little longer,” then that’s all the evidence you need to know you’re in a bad situation.